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It’s never too late to learn something new, especially if it involves fresh air, exercise and picture postcard scenery. If you’ve been thinking about getting on the slopes, either on skis or a snowboard, here are nine top spots for beginners. Each one also offers intermediate and advanced après ski and non-slope daytime activities ranging from cooking classes with star chefs to soaking in natural hot springs. These are the best ski resorts for beginners, because life should be downhill in winter.

Olympic Park |Credit: Utah Olympic Park

Olympic Park |Credit: Utah Olympic Park

Canyons, Park City, Utah – Most ski/snowboard schools are at the bottom of the mountain, where your sweeping mountain view is the parking lot. Not here. At Canyons in Park City, classes are mid-mountain, on a gentle “saddle” that inspires even the timid. Graduate to Boa, a cruiser that snakes (forgive the pun) around the mountain for nearly two-miles. The truly brave can strap themselves into a bobsled at Olympic Park for a rocket ride down an iced track, or opt for Snowshoe and Yoga tour with a bit of both. Unless you enjoy gridlock traffic, including in restaurants, and/or celebrity spotting, avoid the annual Sundance Film Festival in January.

Cervinia, Italy | Credit: Italian Tourist Board

Cervinia, Italy | Credit: Italian Tourist Board

Breuil-Cervinia, Italy – This is the quieter, less expensive, less glamorous side of the Matterhorn, where private lessons cost about the same as a group lesson on the Zermatt side. Enjoy a mid-day break at one of Breuil-Cervinia‘s mid-mountain cafes, or buy a pass to the summit to inhale a 360-view. Just be sure to get back to Cervinia before the lifts close, or you could be stranded in Switzerland and a budget-busting taxi ride around the mountain back to Italy. Or, stay in Zermatt for the nightlife and shopping, and learn for less on the Italian side.

Courchevel Tree Valleys map | Credit: Courchevel Tourisme

Courchevel Tree Valleys map | Credit: Courchevel Tourisme

Courcheval, France – With more than 400 miles of slopes ad nearly 200 lifts, even experienced skiers need a guide to help them navigate Courcheval‘s endless terrain, so you should hire one for double-duty as an instructor. This is one of the top family resorts in France, with plenty of long gentle runs and ski-in lodging and even an annual snowball fight day in the dedicated Family Park ski area. Off slope, take a cooking class at one of the Michelin-starred restaurants, or a hot air balloon ride over the landscape. Have a drink at the Louis Vuitton Hotel, because you probably can’t afford to stay there, but the over-the-top all-Vuitton décor is worth seeing for the price of a drink.

Related: 7 dude ranch vacations to take this summer.

Crested Butte | Credit: Eagles Nest by Crested Butte Lodging Hotel

Crested Butte | Credit: Eagles Nest by Crested Butte Lodging Hotel

Crested Butte, Colorado – It’s just another day in paradise here. Paradise Bowl, that is—it’s Crested Butte‘s a gentle, wide open area popular with newbie downhillers of all ages. The majority of terrain here is classified as beginner or intermediate, but there’s enough adrenalin on the back side of the mountain to challenge any experts in your group.   Take a walking tour of the historic buildings downtown in this authentic cattle town, or climb aboard a horse-drawn sleigh for dinner ata rustic 1950s cabin at the Lazy F Bar Ranch.

Cowboy Bar, Jackson Hole | Credit: Evelyn Kanter

Cowboy Bar, Jackson Hole | Credit: Evelyn Kanter

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Sorry grown-up beginners, you don’t get to ride uphill from the base area to the top of the learner’s run in a wagon pulled by a snowmobile. But you do get to enjoy everything else that the iconic Jackson Hole resort has to offer, including a historic downtown with genuine wooden sidewalks that thunka-thunka to steps made in cowboy boots. Head for the Cowboy Bar, where barstools are saddles and there’s enough room on the dance floor for fancy two-steppng. The 2015/2016 season is the resort’s 50th, so there will be serious partying until the snow melts around Easter. Plus, Yellowstone National Park is up the road, with snowmobiling, frozen waterfalls, bison and elk.

 

Killington Resort | Credit: Killington Resort

Killington Resort | Credit: Killington Resort

Killington, Vermont – It’s called “the Beast of the East” because it’s the largest resort in the East, sprawling over six of the Green Mountains. That also means Killington has one of the largest adult learning programs in the country, including a Burton-branded snowboard school with special beginner’s equipment. Once the lifts close, just about everybody heads for the Wobbly Barn, which morphs from steakhouse to nightclub with live music and dancing at around 9pm. Or, giggle and bounce your way down the Tubing Hill, open Thursday through Sunday.

Related: 5 classic family resorts for relaxing and having fun.

Mammoth, California

Mammoth, California

Mammoth, California – While powderhounds head for Chair 23 for steep and deep terrain down from the peak at Mammoth, beginners and intermediates have the entire lower half of this huge mountain. There are monthly full moon tours at the Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center, and sunset mountaintop snowcat tours to view the Ritter Range, with wine and snacks (cocoa for the kids). The snow here lasts well into June, so you can ski or ride in the morning and golf in the afternoon. Or, soak those aching muscles in one of the natural hot springs that dot the area.

Mont Sainte-Anne_Quebec

Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec

Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec – For many visitors, the best part about skiing or riding here is that it’s less than one hour from downtown Quebec City, with its historic Old City and restaurants and shopping. Part of the mountain is open for night skiing, so you could flip the day and do your “après” during daylight and downhilling after dark. Be sure to visit the base area Ski Museum, a small outpost of historic equipment and clothing that proves again how much tougher our predecessors were. The most popular spot on the mountain may be the Sugar Shack, where you roll your own maple syrup “popsicle” in fresh snow. Best event is the Winter Carnival in January, including a canoe race on the frozen St. Lawrence River, combining between paddling and carrying.

Winter Park Ski Train | Credit: Ski Train

Winter Park Ski Train | Credit: Ski Train

Winter Park, Colorado – Just 70 miles from Denver, this is a locals favorite, and can be crowded on weekends. Head for Winter Park‘s uncrowded Vasques Ridge area, with long, gentle cruisersand great views. Try a ski-bike, a contraption that you sit on like a bike, with a ski in place of wheels. Winter Park is one of the few resorts which offer lessons and guided tours, not just rentals. It’s also one of the few resorts you can get to by train. The Ski Train from Denver deposits you at the base area in two hours, going through 28 tunnels and red rock canyons.

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Tagged: California, Destinations, Europe, Family time, Top 10 Lists

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Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn is an NYC-based travel writer who would rather ride a chairlift, river raft or zipline than the subway. She's a regular contributor to major publications, including airline inflights, and has written more than a dozen travel guidebooks. Evelyn's website is www.ecoxplorer.com
Evelyn Kanter

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One thought on “World’s best ski resorts for beginners”

  1. Don’t plan on taking the Winter Park Ski Train too soon. The service was sold in 2009, and other than a pair of Amtrak-run trips last March, it hasn’t run since. Winter Park is hoping to have Ski Train service restored, but that may not come for a year or two.

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